I'm a housekeeper at a hotel where a 1-night stay costs more than I make in 2 weeks
- Thousands of workers from 60 hotels in Los Angeles have been striking in waves since July.
- Two housekeepers at luxury hotels told BI they're after fair wages and humane working conditions.
Workers at luxury hotels in Los Angeles, California are fed up.
They've been striking for months, with waves of workers represented by Unite Here Local 11 union taking to picket lines and foregoing work as they seek fair wages, more humane working conditions, and affordable health care in their contracts.
And while some hotels have reached agreements, thousands of employees remain on strike in hopes of securing their own deals.
Maribel Reyes, a 41-year-old room attendant at the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills, told Business Insider she's been part of the ongoing hotel strike movement in order to win better benefits to care for her 4-year-old daughter.
As a single mother, Reyes has high costs associated with childcare, roughly $600 a month she said, in addition to her $1,700 rent. Making $25 an hour, she takes home about $1,200 in each paycheck, Insider verified by reviewing a recent paystub — about as much as a single-night stay at some of the rooms in the luxury hotel where she has worked for three years.
A night in a standard room at the Waldorf Astoria starts at $995, per the hotel's website, while villa suites are over $3,000 nightly.
Recently, Reyes' car was stolen, forcing her to wake up at 5:15 a.m. to make sure she could catch the bus to work. But her wages, which the union says have stagnated in comparison to rising housing costs, aren't enough for her to save anything for a replacement.
"I want them to understand and to realize that we have families," Reyes told Business Insider through a translator, Maria Hernandez, with the communications department of Unite Here Local 11. "I have a daughter I need to help take care of, and help school the little one. I have bills. I have things I need to pay, and I need them to understand and put themselves in my position and really realize that what we're asking for is fair and it's the right thing for us to do."
Reyes is far from alone in her pleas to management to reach an agreement. Thousands of workers across more than 50 hotels have taken to the streets in protest of the long hours, taxing physical labor, and increasingly messy guests they clean up after since coronavirus-related procedures reduced daily housekeeping services.
Despite months of ongoing demonstrations, so far the only hotels that have come to an agreement with striking workers are Le Merigot Santa Monica, The Westin Bonaventure, the Biltmore in Los Angeles, Loews Hollywood Hotel, and the Laguna Cliffs Marriott in Dana Point.
Those that have reached agreements have provided hotel workers with wage increases, staffing agreements to prevent shortages, as well as pension increases that Unite Here Local 11 says will help workers "retire with dignity."
Still, the strike continues for workers at locations that have yet to reach an agreement.
"The job is very tough for us," Elizabeth Galindo, a 60-year-old housekeeper at the Hilton Anaheim, told Business Insider, adding that it has been more challenging since the pandemic began three years ago. "With the salary I do it, I can't live. I have to pay my rent, and all my expenses with the salary I have. In Anaheim, who can live? I need to get a second job for survival. It's only for paying the bills and that's it."
Galindo's second job is also full-time, she said, cleaning office buildings from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. after her shift at the hotel. But even exhausted from the mentally and physically strenuous work, she says the energy on the picket line stays high.
"Everybody is very enthusiastic," Galindo told Business Insider. "I think the company, they know we are serious, and looking for benefits and rights."
She added: "When other people come to replace to us, they don't do the job we do. We do the job with loyalty. We have pride about the job we're doing."
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